Impromptus

Our Winnie: Did he or didn’t he? &c.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill during WWII (Wikimedia)
On an alleged affair, a sudden amour pour la France, a U.S. embassy, the latest Trump tweets, and more

Winston Churchill has been accused of having an affair. (Sounds like I’m writing about a current headline. I am, really.) A Churchill biographer, or biographer-to-be, has written an interesting piece, countering this accusation. He is Andrew Roberts (who will one day be Sir Andrew, I feel sure).

To read the piece in question, go here.

I think of Paul Johnson, another Churchill biographer — who says that Churchill’s stable marriage, and his eschewal of adultery, was a secret of his productive, useful life. He was not distracted and warped by this kind of living.

Is the accusation against Churchill true? I don’t know, of course. I doubt it. At the moment, I simply raise the issue and point you to Roberts (and bring up Johnson).

• Remember how we American conservatives used to knock the Left for admiring France and wanting to make America more like that country? Well, I was thinking:

Trump goes to Paris for Bastille Day and wants a similar show for himself. He pays off porn stars and Playboy bunnies, and most of our Right yawns. CPAC extends an invitation to the National Front.

Who’s French now, you know?

• Often, governments rename streets to make political points. In the 1980s, Congress and President Reagan named a stretch outside the Soviet embassy “Andrei Sakharov Plaza.” We have now done the same, outside the Russian embassy — naming it “Boris Nemtsov Plaza.”

Nemtsov was the leader of the opposition to Putin, murdered in February 2015.

Well, let me tell you what the Turkish government has done. They recently undertook a military offensive in Syria, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch.” (Do you love it?) Turkish forces battled Syrian Kurdish forces, who are a major ally of the United States.

For years, the U.S. embassy in Ankara has sat on a street named after Nevzat Tandogan — a political leader in Ankara during the first half of the 20th century. That street has now been renamed. They are calling it … “Operation Olive Branch.”

Turkey is an odd ally of the United States, isn’t it? NATO member and all …

This news story is creepy. Have a look at the first few paragraphs:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come under criticism for telling a small girl dressed in a military uniform that she would be honored if she were “martyred” for Turkey.

Erdogan spotted the weeping-and-saluting 6-year-old Amine Tiras while delivering a speech at his ruling party’s congress in the city of Kahramanmaras on Saturday, and had her brought on stage.

After trying to comfort the girl by kissing her on both cheeks, Erdogan told the crowd: “She has the Turkish flag in her pocket. If she becomes a martyr, God willing, this flag will be draped on her.”

That is nationalism in action. And that is what is ruling Turkey. For years, certain Western conservatives assured us that Erdogan and his party were proper conservatives, worthy of our support. They were taking Turkey away from a liberal secularism that did not fit the country. Everything would be fine. Turkey should even join the EU.

I was willing to listen to that argument. But today …

• Daniel Hannan is worth his weight in gold — and I especially appreciate him, for he writes articles that I would write, saving me the trouble. And he does it so well.

Here he is on “Euro-authoritarianism,” as he calls it, and American conservatism. There was once a vast gulf between these things. The gulf is closing with nauseating rapidity. Hannan lays out the wrongness of it, telling us conservatives, “You don’t want to go this way.”

At least some of us don’t …

• On Tuesday, the president of the United States issued a tweet. It read, in its entirety, “WITCH HUNT!” My impression is that most people ignored it — which is interesting in itself. How very odd to have a president whom people ignore as they would a child having a tantrum in the mall.

• Here is another presidential tweet, from yesterday: “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Daddy is upset (again). This will upset Jeff (again). Jeff will try to please Daddy (again). And on it goes, this sick and profoundly un-republican drama.

Also: Why doesn’t Trump pick up the phone and call Sessions? Does he think he wouldn’t be able to get through or something? That the switchboard operator would stiff him?

This is such bizarre stuff. And even more bizarre is that, we’re so used to it, we scarcely notice it.

• “Big legal win today,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “U.S. judge sided with the Trump Administration and rejected the attempt to stop the government from building a great Border Wall on the Southern Border. Now this important project can go forward!”

That “U.S. judge,” Trump once called merely “a Mexican.” We are speaking of Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, born in Indiana. I think of a song from Bernstein’s Candide: “I Am So Easily Assimilated.”

• I’ve been reading about the West Virginia teachers’ strike, with nausea. (Here is one report.) I have to wonder: Who is looking out for the students’ interest?

And I had a memory, from long ago. I included the memory in an essay I wrote in 2014: “A Long Way from Harlan County: One man’s reflections on labor unions in our time.” In my hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich., I said, the teachers went on strike from time to time. It seemed that they were working fewer and fewer hours, at greater and greater pay and benefits.

There was a time when teachers were almost like missionaries. They took virtual vows of poverty, to serve the community. In the summer, they had to take odd jobs, such as painting houses, to make ends meet until September. I wouldn’t have wanted a return to that. But weren’t current demands a little excessive?

We had a neighbor, Mr. Southwick, who took walks around the block. One day, I asked him what he thought of the teachers strike, then under way. He said, “Well, first, I don’t think professional people should strike.” I was shocked at the answer. It wasn’t that I disagreed with it. It’s that I never knew anyone had that opinion.

Yes. I remember that conversation vividly — including the way Mr. Southwick said the words. And the look on his face when he said them. Funny, about memory.

• Two weeks ago, I had a piece about the persecution of the Rohingya people in Burma, or Myanmar. “Persecution” is almost too light a word. It is full-blown ethnic cleansing. “Ethnic cleansing” is too light a phrase. They are raping and murdering these people en masse, and driving them out of the country. This is Nazi-style stuff.

Last week, the Associated Press reported,

First, their villages were burned to the ground. Now, Myanmar’s government is using bulldozers to literally erase them from the earth — in a vast operation rights groups say is destroying crucial evidence of mass atrocities against the nation’s ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority.

First the crime, then the cover-up. But it’s not going to work, entirely: because enough people know. And will know.

• In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986. We now learn that “Uganda’s ruling party is pushing for a referendum that could extend the longtime president’s rule to 2035.” Why don’t they just declare the guy president for life and have done with it?

• In the Middle East — certainly in Syria — Russia is calling the shots. Vlad is, to a degree, the new sheriff in town. The United States is absent. Nicholas Burns, the veteran diplomat, was making this point to me in a Q&A podcast recently (here). And it was buttressed by this article from Tuesday.

Highly important.

• For reasons I might explain, I was watching the game show What’s My Line? the other night. The show ran in the 1950s and ’60s. I watched on YouTube.

In 1953, Eleanor Roosevelt was a guest — the “mystery celebrity.” The panelists were blindfolded and, through a series of questions, had to guess who she was. (It wasn’t hard.)

Contestants on What’s My Line? — all of them, celebrities and non-celebrities — had to “sign in.” They had to write their name on a blackboard. Remember writing with chalk? It was not especially easy. It was hard to do it elegantly.

I was impressed by Mrs. Roosevelt’s handwriting. She took her time, writing that long name: “Eleanor Roosevelt.” (The audience had to keep applauding and applauding!) And she did it with an elegant hand. She had had a lifetime to practice her signature. It was good.

Check it, and her, out, here.

Also, this thought occurred to me: Her name was always “Eleanor Roosevelt.” She was born with that name and, when she married, it did not change. It was both her maiden name and her married name.

That must not happen very often. To plenty of Smiths, though, I imagine!

• Are police officers sometimes asked to do too much? Hell, yes. Ahem.

• Okay, how about this? “Police say a damning clue led to the arrest of a Pennsylvania man charged with stealing a pot of meatballs — red sauce smeared on his face and clothes.” Caught red-handed? Red-faced?

Have a great one, dear-hearts, and be careful when stealing meatballs.